That’s the feeling of a growing number of church-going evangelicals who feel increasingly displaced these days.
Displaced culturally, because many Christian beliefs are now seen as “extreme,” such as the command to share the gospel, or the uniqueness of Jesus, or the definition of marriage.
Displaced politically, because the party that has made the greatest overtures to conservative Christians is morphing into a populist and nativist movement willing to abandon conservative principles for political gain.
Democrats who switched parties three decades ago echoed Ronald Reagan: “We didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Party left us.” Many churchgoing evangelicals today share similar sentiments about the Republican Party, even if they remain reluctantly affiliated and can’t countenance the rival party’s platform on issues like abortion or religious freedom.
“Not At Home”
“I’m not at home in any party,” a friend told me last week.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
Maybe these tumultuous times serve to remind us that the Christian faith transcends and critiques every political group. We’ve always said that’s the case. It’s just that now we feel the weight of that truth.
To feel “not at home” should be the sentiment of every Christian in a fallen world. The fact that our sense of displacement feels so foreign may be a sign that we’ve felt much too “at home” in one party or another.
The Sensational vs. The Significant
The stakes of this year’s election are high. Social media has transformed our political appetites. Citizens are hungry for the most recent poll, the biggest insult, and the most entertaining sound bite. The avalanche of the “news alerts” buries any opportunity to think deeply about what is taking place.
“It is all too easy to get caught up in the sensational and forget the significant,” writes Os Guinness.
“Ten million ignorant assertions, even when magnified and accelerated in a hundred million tweets and ‘likes,’ still never add up to truth or wisdom, or what is right and good.”
He’s right. That’s why some pundits are calling this the era of “post-truth politics,” where it no longer matters if your statement is true or false, as long as you repeat it relentlessly.
Evangelicals cannot and must not feel at home in such a world.
- We are to be known for honor in a world that rewards insults.
- We are to be known for truth in a world that knows only spin.
- We are to be known for conviction in a world that falls for charisma.
To sacrifice conviction for political power is capitulation. What does it profit us to gain the White House and lose our souls?
The Conscience of the Culture
Past leaders of conservative Christianity warned against excessive attachments to political parties. Chuck Colson warned against the Left’s growing intolerance for religious liberty and the rights of conscience. But he also drew fire from the Right when he advocated prison reform. He was willing to buck the party line and be labeled “soft” on crime because he knew what needed to be done and he was willing to take a stand, no matter where the political winds were blowing.
“When the church aligns itself politically,” Colson wrote, “it gives priority to the compromises and temporal successes of the political world rather than the its rightful Christian confession of eternal truth. And when the church gives up its rightful place as the conscience of the culture, the consequences for society can be horrific.”
Indeed. And our culture needs a conscience.
At their national Convention in 2012, the Democrats cheered every time abortion was mentioned. Think about that. Cheers and laughter in support of violence toward the most vulnerable humans among us. That was the spirit of antichrist sweeping through the room.
At a recent debate, Republicans applauded the candidate who advocates torture and says he hopes to legalize the killing of civilian women and children who are related to terrorists. The same spirit of antichrist was in that applause.
I am not saying there is a moral equivalence between the two frontrunners or their party platforms. I’m only pointing out that the spirit of antichrist does not respect party lines. Christians who cannot resist the pull of their party’s position and who neglect their conscience or betray their convictions are hiding their light under a partisan bowl.
Dissent As Loyalty
Some Christians may worry that disagreeing with their party is being disloyal. Not so. Fearing for the future of your country or party is not disloyalty, but loving concern. As G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“You have never begun to love anything until you have begun to fear for it.”
Sometimes, dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.
William Wilberforce loved his country enough to expose the evils of the slave trade. Because he loved England, he wanted his country to live up to its virtues and values.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not betray his German heritage when he opposed the rise of Nazism. He died a truer German than Hitler could ever have hoped to be.
Our Political Society – The Church
The main reason we should not feel “at home” in a political party is because we already belong to a political society. It’s called the Church. It transcends national borders and breaks down worldly barriers. There, we don’t vote for a president; we bow before a King.
We should always feel in the world but not of the world, in America but not of America, in a political party but not of a political party. Embracing that tension is not weakness, but faithfulness.
So, take hope, Christian. The Church will be around long after today’s empires and political parties fade away. If you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of the Church.
After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election, but because of Easter.